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If you’re looking for a project management platform that includes nearly every bell and whistle you can imagine, Jira should bubble its way to the top of your list. With this service, you gain access to roadmaps, backlogs, project pages, automation, templates and so much more.

And, of course, no project management tool is complete without my favorite feature: Kanban boards.

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If you’ve never experienced a Kanban board, they are one of the simplest and most effective tools in your project management toolbox. Kanban boards give you a visual representation of the status of every task in a project and allow you to drag and drop those projects along a timeline of milestones.

For those who work with Jira, Kanban boards could easily become the most important feature you use. However, with Jira, Kanban boards can be a bit tricky because it depends on how you’ve set up your project.

For instance, if your project is of the Software Project type and includes sprints, you can’t work with boards until you’ve started your first sprint. If, on the other hand, you’re working with a non-Software Project type, boards are not only built-in, they are added by default and ready to go.

With that said, let’s walk through the process of creating a new Kanban board in Jira. I’ll demonstrate using a standard Business Project that doesn’t depend on first setting up and starting a sprint.

What you’ll need

The only thing you’ll need for this is a Jira account. You can use either a free or a paid plan, as they both include Kanban boards.

How to create your first Kanban board

As I mentioned, Kanban boards are already built into most projects you will create on Jira. In fact, if you go to the Features page for your project (Figure A), you’ll find you cannot disable the Board feature.

Figure A

The Features section for a Software Project includes Boards, which cannot be disabled.

You will also notice that in the Project sidebar, the Board option is already available (Figure B).

Figure B

This is a Business Project sidebar, which already includes Boards.

Another thing I should mention is that, at least on the Business Project page, you don’t have access to a Features option, which means what you see is what you get.

Click Board in the left sidebar to reveal the default Kanban board layout (Figure C).

Figure C

Our default Jira Kanban board layout.

The first thing you should do is click Create Your First Item and then type some details for the task (Figure D).

Figure D

Adding the first item to the Kanban board.

Here’s where we run into our first problem: Columns. Whether or not you can customize the columns for your board depends on how the project was created.

If you want to be able to customize your Kanban boards, click the Projects drop-down and select Create Project from the menu. You can then click the Kanban option and then make sure to click Select a Company-Managed Project (Figure E), which will give you the option to customize the board.

Figure E

Creating a company-managed project in Jira.

Once you’ve created the project, you should see a three-dot menu in the upper-right of your board. Click that and then select Board Settings (Figure F).

Figure F

Accessing the Board Settings window in a Jira project.

In the resulting window (Figure G), you can then add as many columns as needed and even rename existing columns.

Figure G

Customizing a Jira Kanban board.

The customization of the Jira Kanban boards is the only task that might trip you up with the service. Other than that, using the Jira Kanban option should be as simple and powerful as any you’ve ever used.

It might take you a while to get used to building and customizing your boards, but once you’ve nailed that process, these boards are stellar to work with.

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